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Mental healthcare for children with chronic conditions: a qualitative study


Objective To explore parent perspectives on accessing mental healthcare for children with a chronic physical health condition.

Design Qualitative research using semistructured interviews and Framework Analysis. Rankings were used to select attributes for a Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE).

Setting Four specialty outpatient clinics (diabetes, epilepsy, bronchiectasis unrelated to cystic fibrosis and epidermolysis bullosa) at an Australian tertiary paediatric hospital.

Participants Eighteen parents of children with a chronical physical health condition.

Results Most parents identified the child’s general practitioner and/or hospital team as an initial pathway to seek help if they were worried about their child’s mental health. Parents see mental healthcare as part of care for the whole child and want the outpatient clinics to proactively discuss child and family mental health, as well as refer to appropriate services as needed. The hospital being a familiar, child-friendly environment was identified as a key reason the hospital might be a desired place to access mental healthcare, as previous research has found. Six attributes of mental health services were identified as important and will be included in an upcoming DCE: travel time, cost, wait time, available hours, knowledge of physical health condition, and recommendation.

Conclusions This study highlights the opportunity presented in specialist outpatient clinics to address the often unmet mental healthcare needs of children with chronic physical health conditions. Parents identified practical ways for outpatient clinics to better facilitate access to mental healthcare. These will be further explored through a quantitative study of parent preferences.

  • health services research
  • psychology
  • qualitative research

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplemental information. All data relevant to the study are included in the article and supplemental materials.

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